The Grapes of Wrath and Kafka: Why RACI is important

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The Grapes of Wrath1 by John Steinbeck was set during the Great Depression in America. The book was made into an academy award winning film in 1940 directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

Early on in the book we hear of one of the farmers, Muley Graves, recite how he was served papers by a city man to get off his farm land. Muley tries to find out who is responsible for what he sees as this injustice. The city man tells him it is the Shawnee Land & Cattle Company but they are told what to do by the bank. Muley asks where the bank is. The city man says that the bank is in Tulsa but it is no good going there. The bank manager is only taking orders from the east. There appears to be no single person accountable for this action of evicting a man and his family from their farm.

Wikipedia2 notes that Franz Kafka is regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. His book, The Castle, is often understood to be about alienation, bureaucracy, the seemingly endless frustrations of man's attempts to stand against the system, and the futile and hopeless pursuit of an unobtainable goal.

At the start of our project we need to define accountability and responsibility, and not find ourselves in Muley Graves’ situation.  Furthermore projects need to have obtainable goals and a system, unlike the situation faced by the protagonist ‘K’ in Kafka’s the Castle.

The APM Body of Knowledge 6th Edition3 provides professional guidance which assists in resolving these issues. We take the organisational breakdown structure. It is combined with a work breakdown structure to produce a responsibility assignment matrix.

This is known as an RACI Chart.


  • R is Responsible for action
  • A is Accountable yes / no decisions
  • C is for Consulted before (2 way)
  • I is for Informed (1 way)

At initiation we agree the RACI. During delivery we use this RACI to ensure ownership and there is a system in place. What are our options instead of RACI? When you start your next project, remember The Grapes of Wrath and Muley Graves, also that of Kafka’s K in the Castle. Our project requires responsibility, accountability and a way of ensuring that there can be feedback. The RACI Matrix is a way of agreeing this.



  1. Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath, Penguin Classics, 2000, Print
  3. The APMBody of Knowledge, 6th Edition, Association for Project Management, 2012



Posted by John Chapman on 9th Mar 2017

About the Author

John Chapman is Programme Director for Touchstone FMS His twitter is An experienced Programme Director, Programme Manager, Project Director and Project Manager; having led Programmes of business change, implemented Financial Accounting Systems, Spend Control systems, and Document Management solutions International Project implementation experience, with a good understanding of the challenges of working with different cultures, and the logistics of international project delivery. Publications include: Author of a. Your Project Needs You, b. Kafka, Pulp Fiction, Beer and Projects, c. ‘Project and Programme Accounting, a practical guide for Professional Service Organisations and IT’ published by Project Manager Today Publications. d. Member of the authoring group of the Gower Handbook of Programme Management 1st Edition. e. An acknowledged contributor to Managing Successful Programmes, 1st Edition and the APM Introduction to Programme Management 1st edition. The author of a range of educational video podcasts which are published at He is Communications Lead for APM Programme Management Specific Interest Group  (

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